Dec 12, 2013

Christmas Cracked Crab!

Christmas cracked crab
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Christmas is a time for traditions, especially when it comes to food. In our house we traditionally have cracked dungeness crab either for Christmas or on New Years Eve. Fortunately for us, and the other dungeness crab lovers in Hawaii, there are aquaculture farms growing a huge variety of sea crops. High quality abalone, Maine lobsters, and dungeness crabs are now being farm-raised in Kona, on the Big Island here in Hawaii, making them available to restaurants and consumers without draining ocean resources. Best of all, they’re providing new industries for Hawaii, making us less dependent on outside suppliers.

The unique location in Kona enables the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) to pump water up from 2,000 feet below sea level through a 40-inch diameter pipeline, which has attracted aquaculture companies like Royal Hawaiian Sea Farms, Kona Blue Water Farms, Trout Lodge Marine Farms, Big Island Abalone Corporation, and Kona Cold Lobsters, to sell their products throughout the state of Hawaii. In other words, local Kona seafood shipped right to your door. Seafood like abalone, Main lobster, dungeness crab, Pacific oysters, Manila clams, PEI mussels, kampachi, moi, butterfish, Japanese abalone, and ogo seaweed. Kona Cold Lobsters has been in business since 1987, providing their products daily to resorts, supermarkets, fine dining restaurants and independent gourmet chefs in Hawaii. Here is a link to Kona Cold Lobsters website. Check it out for yourself!

Fortunately for me, my wife ordered 4 dungeness crabs through Friendly Market's meat department manager, here on Moloka'i, to be delivered to us for our Christmas dinner. They arrived, nicely packaged with jell packs. The frisky crabs weighed almost 2 pounds each, which is quite large. They had rubber bands attached to their claws so they could easily be handled. If you have not eaten fresh dungeness crab, you are in for a treat. Here is how to cook them San Francisco Style:

Cracked Dungeness Crab, San Francisco Style!
Live dungeness crab grown in Hawaii
I spent 35 years of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can't live there that long without tasting dungeness crab the way the Italians prepare it. Basically it is fresh dungeness crab that is boiled, cracked, and then briefly marinated in a vinaigrette, but not just any vinaigrette, as you will see. The crab is usually served on large tables covered with newspapers, and lots on napkins. The crab eating experience is one of silence. Once you've tasted the crab, you can't just eat one bite, you can't even stop to lift a glass of wine to your lips because they are full of the best crab on the planet. It's a food experience I always enjoy.

Ingredients for the vinaigrette:
1 cup of red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon brown mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons dried dill, or fresh if you can get it
1 large bunch of parsley, minced
4 large cloves of fresh garlic, minced

Ingredients for cooking the crab:
4 large fresh live dungeness crab
2 tablespoons pickling spice
2 tablespoons sea salt, or kosher salt

1 very large pot
1 wooden mallet
large wooden spoon

Cooked dungeness crab
Bring a large pot of water to boil (large enough to hold 4 large crab, otherwise use 2 pots). Add the salt and pickling spice to the water and cover the pot. While you are waiting for the water to boil, get a large glass jar and mix all of the vinaigrette ingredients together. Put the jar aside. When the water comes to a rapid boil, slowly slip the live crab into the water. This instantly kills them, and they turn bright red in color. Cook the crab in the boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove the crab to cool for about 30 minutes. Dump the water out of the pot. 

After the crab cools, break the legs off of the crab and set them aside. Turn the crab body over on its back, belly side up. You will see a triangular-shaped belly flap. Remove the shell by prying it off using your thumb and fingers. Open to reveal the crabs breast meat, drain, if needed. Pull the breast meat out of the crabs shell. Cut the two breasts apart with a knife, then remove the spongy gills and small paddle at the front of the breast, they are not good to eat, so discard them. Now cut each breast into 3 parts, but don't cut all the way through. Return the breasts to the cooking pot. 

Cracked Dungeness Crab, San Francisco Style!
Now comes the messy part, cracking the crab legs. With a small hammer, or preferably a wooden mallet or meat tenderizer, gently crack each leg at each joint so that it is easy to break open the shell and remove the meat at the table. Put all of the cracked crab legs in the pot with the breasts. Now pour the vinaigrette over the cracked crab, gently stir with a wooden spoon, so the marinade is evenly coating the cracked crab. Set the pot aside to rest for 30 minutes, turning the cracked crab once more after the first 15 minutes. Serve the crab with a crisp white wine and lots of napkins. Makes 4 servings. 

Note: You can purchase these delicious dungeness crabs directly from Kona Cold Lobsters for $20 each, plus shipping, check out their website link above. It may seem like a lot of money, but think about if you had to fly to San Francisco to get them, how much would that cost. Happy Holiday Eating!

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